Sunday, September 19, 2010
Fat LIke Me - Bracing for the Onslaught
Rhubarb custard pie and veggies from the backyard.
colorful carrots, ready to blanch and freeze
I attended the “Food Summit” at the Bend Community College, and it was really quite the event. I was amazed by the participation of so many different people, agencies, farmers, chefs, and individuals - all wanting to be involved in the food localization and sustainability movement. It was well organized, with a renowned main speaker, lots of seminars on different topics, a coming together to share what we learned, and a circle at the end where people committed to what they are going to do to make a difference. Also impressive to me was the large number of younger folks who were in positions of responsibility for the event itself and also for raising the awareness for the pressing need out there for sustainable food. Interestingly, the most underrepresented group was sitting county commissioners or city council representatives. I guess they are not as yet real interested in the problem of “food insecurity” in the area. That’s what they call hunger now - “food insecurity.” Statistically Oregon is second only to Mississippi in food insecurity.
I learned that there are big problems with the local production of food, difficulties with distribution, rules that favor Big Agriculture, and limitations imposed with certification, licensing, permits, and fees to sell locally produced food. On the one hand there is a big push to encourage people to eat healthy, lose weight, and encourage food security. But, on the other hand, Big Agriculture and Big Grocery lobbyists seem to have written the rules to serve themselves. Another surprising problem is that people seem to have forgotten HOW TO COOK! Yup. Over half the people surveyed in Madras, for instance, reported that they don’t know how to cook food from scratch. I guess many people are not watching The Food Channel or picking up any magazines or cookbooks that surround them….hard for me to fathom. Maybe the schools should include cookbooks in their reading programs. I’m serious.
I came away with the renewed purpose to teach people what they can grow and raise in their backyards and to teach them how to cook it. I am hoping that we will be able to use the kitchen at the Grange or Senior Center to present cooking and preserving classes to those who need and want to learn.
But, I attended a session on Health that turned out to be part of a national effort to fix the “huge” problem of obesity in this country. I learned what an enormous liability fat people are to the insurance companies, employers, and everyone and everything you can think of. We use up more gasoline because we are too much of a load in autos. We take off to much time from work because of problems linked to overweight… on and on.
So...just could not resist sending this letter to the young yuppie professional women working for a couple of local hospital programs involved in the new push to identify and fix fat people, and who led the workshops:
Dear Kati and Beth Ann,
After attending the Food Summit yesterday and the presentations on Obesity and Health, I must write to tell you of my concern. I was the obese woman in the room.... I am, of course, more than that, but when the focus is on weight, "obese" becomes the definitive perception.
Although I agree that obesity is a very real health challenge in America, I fear that all this emphasis on "teaching obese children and adults how to eat according to the food pyramid" is only going to target the overweight population by the insurance companies and the corporations. In the long run, it will not reduce the weight of the vast majority of obese people, but will insure that we will have a new population to discriminate against. The fat person will become the new "Negro", as the term was used in the old days to keep brown people marginalized and out of the mainstream moneymaking track and in "their place". It is already a reality, and soon it will be justified by all kinds of statistics that prove that we are just a liability to the country and to employers of all kinds. If two people apply for a job, even if the fat person is more qualified, which one will an employer hire? The fat person who is seen as a potential high medical risk that will inevitably cost the insurance company and/or employers more money? I think not.
After all, our economy is contracting due to outsourcing so many of our jobs. They are not coming back. A new segment of the population needs to be taken out of the running for the decreasing number of jobs. Eventually, all sorts of laws and penalties will be instituted on what will be viewed as lazy, ignorant, slobs who are "scientifically" proven to not be worth their weight in anything but scorn. Their genetic code will be labeled substandard. They will be relegated to housecleaning and janitorial jobs with no benefits of any kind. Have you ever watched the movie "Gattaca"? If not, I recommend it. You can rent it from Netflix, and it stars Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawk, and Jude Law.
Just as the American Cancer Society focuses on "finding the cure" for cancer while ignoring the causes of it, the anti-obesity campaigns will focus on eating disorders while ignoring the many other root causes of obesity. Those causes, to my mind are: contaminants in our foods which mimic estrogen, the decreased quality of our soils which render our vegetables lacking in nutrients, the side effects of many of the prescription drugs which makes it almost impossible to lose weight while taking them, the stress most common in the working class, the cost of nutritious food, lack of sleep, the effects of spending too much time in front of the TV set or playing video games, and lack of unstructured free time to play outside for children. Also, of course, the marketing of high fructose corn syrup, chemicals and dyes, in almost all foods marketed for kids or commuters.
Yes, obesity is an important issue. We are being poisoned and fattened up like cows in a feedlot by Big Agriculture, Big Pharma, Big Business. And talking about it is not going to change it. Eating according to the Food Pyramid is not going to change it, since it was bought and paid for by Big Agra. I never gained as much weight as when I followed the Dean Ornish program for weight loss and heart health. My metabolism seems to be ruined. Even though I was a vegetarian for years. But, that's me. What I am saying is that there is no one right way for everybody. The vast majority of folks who are obese are desperate to lose weight and try everything - mostly to no avail. But, weight loss is Big Business and a lot of people are making big bucks on it.
Personally, I think that it would better serve people to raise consciousness on the issues of poverty, stress, lack of free exercise programs for children, low self-esteem, the side effects of pharmaceuticals in our food, water, and not making a living wage. But, that won't happen. The big money won't let that happen. In this global economy, they need us to be peasants. Obese people are going to be marginalized and then persecuted in the ways I have said and probably many more that I have not thought of yet. Just watch.
As I have said, I grow my own food and live as sustainably as I can. I am going to organize cooking classes and canning classes once I get the Grange kitchen certified. I am doing this on my own. No legislation involved. Nobody telling me that I "have" to. I will not be paid for it. But pretty soon if the trends continue toward curtailing liberty and choice, the authorities will tell me that I can no longer eat my own food that I grow on my own land without a license, permit, or micro-chipping my animals - all in the name of "food safety." Then, I guess they will have to kill me for my own good.
Like it or not, fat or thin, smoker or non-smoker, we are all going to die. If I choose to risk dying at 70 rather than 90, it is my choice - or should be in a free society. The only way the young people today are going to have a chance of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is if the whole system gets off our backs. Personally, I think it would take an asteroid hit. As our solar system approaches the center plane of the galaxy, this solution gives me at least a glimmer of hope.
Duck and cover.
I bet they have not received a letter like that before…